Who are you, who are you, who are you?
This is a familiar chant at football matches aimed at the opposition fans and one of the few repeatable chants! Over the past 12 months, I have had cause and opportunity to reflect – who am I and therefore how would I define myself?
In the past 12 months, I have changed roles, organisation and moved from leading 60 people across two teams to be a lone worker and subject matter expert. This meant moving from a large acute trust to an independent regional role in a national organisation. At times I know I have struggled to adapt especially as my impact is less tangible and less immediate than before.
So, who am I?
Well, it’s complicated; but that helps because I am not then defined by one situation, role or “thing.” If I defined myself solely by my previous role, I would have felt even more lost than I have been. Now in my 50’s I have developed into a runner, or at least I run regularly; so, I define myself as an old, slow runner (see previous blogs). Currently, I am hobbling around having damaged my foot, just walking in a shop! It is frustrating but it’s not catastrophic because I am not just a runner. In my 20’s when I was not able to play rugby due to injury it felt like a disaster until I could play again. In looking back, at the time I can see that this was because playing rugby was a large part of my self-definition, although I did not know this at the time. This appears to be one of the reasons why many professional players struggle to adapt when they have to retire; the loss of identity.
One of the big advantages of my new role is that I travel more, and I use the opportunity to listen to podcasts, several of which have helped me think about a range of personal and management issues, including this one of self-identity.
What I’ve learnt about me
I think one of the reasons for my struggles in the new role was that I had been comfortable in my previous one and it had taken up too much permanence in my identity. As a result, I had not prepared for a move. Having worked for 30 years, mainly in the NHS, I should have been more prepared as individual opportunities and organisational change are normally “just around the corner” and after seven years in the single organisation, a move was likely for one reason or another. It was a mistake to get comfortable, but I am human, and mistakes are allowed. I have learnt from it and I am moving on trying not to beat myself up about making mistakes. This is another lesson from the podcasts. This is not to say I have got it right; I am a work in progress, so I have to regularly remind myself that mistakes are allowed.
So now my self-identity is more fluid, especially in terms of my work. I remain an older, generally grumpy, mildly geekish, Welshman, husband, father, co-owned by a dog, with an interest in workforce development, sport, reading and music. Hopefully, with rest, I will return to dog walking before adding an even slower runner back into my identity.